Jennifer Keeton was expelled from the graduate program at Georgia’s Augusta State University in 2010 because her Christian religious convictions dictate that homosexuality is sinful and voluntary conduct, rather than an innate sexual orientation. A court upheld the school’s right to expel her on the basis that her beliefs made it impossible for her to meet their counseling standards, which the court ruled were neutral, and did not discriminate against her speech or religion.
The case may raise legitimate constitutional issues. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group, and Constitutional Law professor Eugene Volokh (of Volokh Conspiracy fame) are assisting Keaton as she attempts to get reinstated. Ethically, however, I don’t think she has a leg to stand on.
In fact, I think her position resembles the old Dudley Moore-Peter Cook comedy routine where Moore is one-legged amputee who cries foul at being “discriminated against” by a film director who refuses to consider him for the role of Tarzan:
Similarly, how can a counselor claim to be able to provide full and competent services when her attitude toward gays dictates an unsympathetic, hostile and scientifically discredited point of view?
There is a way, actually: Keaton could, theoretically, counsel individuals with issues related to their sexual orientation according to accepted counseling standards, ignoring her own beliefs and not involving them in her counseling approach at all, just as lawyers ethically and competently advise and represent individuals whose objectives and character the lawyers themselves find misguided or reprehensible. For example, the California Bar determined that a tax attorney could personally believe that the income tax was unconstitutional and even run an organization dedicated to convincing citizens to refuse to pay the I.R.S., as long as she didn’t carry those beliefs into her work for tax clients. Keeton refuses to do that, however. She continues to apply her religious hostility to gays in her relationships with those she counsels.
The fact that she has a right to her religious beliefs and to speak about them when and where she chooses does not mean that she can do this in every profession under the sun, just as the “unidexter,” as Moore’s character called himself, couldn’t rationally be indignant that his handicap disqualified him to emulate Johnny Weissmuller. In short, she is not being mistreated. A hostile attitude toward homosexuality may be justified by the Word of God, or it may be ignorant bigotry, but whatever it is, it is out of place in the psychological counseling of gay men and women. Keeton’s plight is similar to that of the Christian pharmacist who wants to withhold birth control from single women and a refuse to sell condoms to gay men. The short and correct response to his conflicting aspiration is: “Sorry. Find another line of work.”
This is not discrimination, but rather the application of practical reality. Keeton can’t be a competent counselor if she insists on telling gays that they are sinners, perverts, and going to Hell unless they straighten up. She isn’t being discriminated against. Her objective is unreasonable, and what she wants to do will cause tangible harm.
But cheer up, Jennifer! The one-legged actor had plenty of good options: he could play Long John Silver, for example. You can go to work for Rick Santorum. Counseling, however, is out.
Post Script: This story caused me to think about my law school room mate—call him Lex— during my first year, one of the more unusual people I have ever known. Lex was handsome, charismatic, funny, athletic, generous, popular, and an unrepentant homophobe, racist and anti-Semite. He also was candid and adamant about the reasons for his beliefs…to trusted friends, and those who were not black, Asian, gay or Jewish. Yet he never exhibited any bias in his conduct, and when he died suddenly in his second year of law school, many of the classmates who traveled from D.C. to Philadelphia for his funeral were members of the very groups he derided in conversations with me. These people considered my roommate a good friend, and had no knowledge of his prejudices.
I asked him once about this, and Lex answered, “Why does this puzzle you? Jesus taught the Golden Rule. Being black or Jewish doesn’t exempt someone from being treated fairly, respectfully and with kindness—that’s how I want them to treat me. Besides, just because I think the members of a group or race in general are inferior doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t judge every individual on his own character and conduct.” That was my friend Lex—the ethical bigot. And he made me realize that we shouldn’t judge people on their beliefs, but only their conduct to the outside world. The inside of our heads can be a strange and ugly places, but it is what the rest of our bodies do that matters.
Facts: Augusta Chronicle
Source: The Blaze
Graphic: Strange Cosmos
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